Monday, November 5, 2007

Tiny fighters and miracle workers

This past weekend I came in late Saturday night to help with the daylight savings change over on the various clocks in the hospital. The facility I work at was originally built in the mid-70's and has grown, like most hospitals, ever since and timekeeping is on a hodgepodge of different systems. Each time keeping system has it own characteristics and behaviors and at the very least has to be monitored to make sure they adjust themselves correctly during the Fall and Spring change overs. In a more recently constructed hospital all or at least most the clocks will probably be linked to one central time keeping computer which even given Congress's attempt to save fuel by manipulating day light hours would adjust all the clocks accordingly right at the appointed time with only some guy in IT watching.


Despite the fact that I've been working here for two years there are still many places in this facility I have yet to travel. My sterilizers, surgical tables, surgical lights, and the occasional simple X-ray room repair keeps me pretty restricted to just a few floors. So after meeting the late night changeover group in the basement the various two man teams struck out to complete the mission. My teammate, who I will call Captain Flash and as far as I was concerned the leader of our team because of his greater seniority, and I went straight up to the floors he was most familiar with to work with some of the more fussy clock systems just to have them done. As Murphy Law would have it that system's main computer for some reason only it would understand decided it would have nothing to do with the changeover forcing us to walk through and manually change the time. One of the departments on the disagreeable system in which we had to walk through was neo-natal intensive care unit. Walking into the first of three wards of that department frankly astounded me. It, along with the other two, had an almost cathedral-like ceiling rising at least twenty to thirty feet up with a huge rough triangle-shaped window at the top. Accompanying the cathedral-like look of the ward was a reverent silence that I'm sure remains during the hustle of a normal work day. Incubators looking like something from the far future lined the walls on either side each with a display screen mounted nearby showing the vitals of the infants inside. Both Flash and I knew we needed to make the times changes and leave as quickly and quietly as possible due to the tiny patients and their miracle working nurses and doctors. But I was shocked to do a rough count of at least twenty incubators in the first ward, all of them occupied. If forced I'm sure the staff could have fitted in about five to ten more but with the patients they had then they didn't have much room between the units as it was that night. One of the clocks was situated on a wall right behind one incubator and as I passed it to make adjustments I saw the tiny infant laying inside it. Underneath all the tubes and wires laying on a white sheet was a baby that I swear was smaller than my hand. Even though it never moved the steady electronic beeps and strong lines coming from the display screen showed it was still fighting. The other two wards each held similar, if not more, little ones like the first and Flash and I quickly made our adjustments and left whenever we got close to them. In the second ward as we were making adjustments several of the incubators began alarming. Worried that something bad had just happened I quickly looked to Flash and he must have saw my concern because he just shook his head no and went on with our task. The nurses in that ward got up from their workstations and in a very calm manner went about checking the shrilling units and after making a few adjustments returned to their seats. In the third ward I saw one little fellow, making a huge fuss, being removed from the incubator with a nurse taking the infant over to a rocker and rocking it till he or she quieted down. That baby looked pretty big and may have been close to leaving, I hope he or she keeps its fighting spirt because given the issues with low birth weight babies it will need every scrap of fight its got.


Questions that I never could ask whirled around my mind as Flash and left that department. Was the number of infants in the intensive care wards normal or had we just walked in at a busy time? If that number was normal what is the main reason for such a full room since I'm sure any designer worth his or her money would have built an excess capacity in case of an emergency? And like I wrote earlier they could have fit a few more units in, but not much. I'm sure the cancerous urban sprawl the Midlands has seen in recent years has something to do with the increase but surely not all. Several times I've read reports that infant mortality in this country is on the rise and while it would not be responsible for me to speculate I must admit the thought crossed my mind as Flash and I went on our way. Has prenatal care fallen so much that our fast food, couch potato lifestyle has worked its way to endangering our very children before birth? The only thing I was certain of was the dedication I saw on the faces of the men and women working that department. While adults can usually make their issues and concerns known to doctors and nurses looking out for them the tiny ones I saw that night couldn't, their entire existence depended on the knowledge and dedication of those trained professionals standing by waiting for the worst but hoping for the best. My final thought on the manner as we continued on was my hope that I could avoid that department from now on, I don't deal well with suffering children. And God forgive me because this was not meant to be political post but apparently some of our leaders can.

15 comments:

Tequila Mockingbird said...

daylight savings time blows. seriously, we arent all farmers now. just leave the clocks alone and we wont need to change them back and forth. it's fucking communism!

MadMike said...

I agree with Tequila! Leave the fucking time alone. The Republican Congress even made things worse a couple of years ago by mandating the change 30 days earlier than usual. We need to stop this time change silliness! Write to your representative and if it is not a Republican you still probably won't get anything done....Now it is a political statement Beach :-)

C.Rag said...

The time change never helped farmers anyways. The cows still needed to be milked no matter what freaking time. They don't have clock hanging around their neck.

On the note of children suffering, that's the hardest thing to see or read about. I've never been a bleeding heart, but when it comes to children & animals my heart has a constant wound.

Mike said...

The time changes themselves are bad enough, but now they have changed the date when we change the time. It's totally maddening.

My body clock is much stronger anyway, which explains why I have been up since 5.

lime said...

well i am no analyst but i do believe i have read that our increased technology is giving half a chance to babies born so early they'd have wound up as late miscarriages or maybe still births because now various prenatal care practices are identifying babies at risk in utero so maybe they are sceduled for early c-section due to being in distress or what have you. also with the rise of fetility treatments there are many more multiple births which are at an increased risk of premature birth. add to that delayed child bearing and older mothers have more risks for all sorts of complications that can lead to premature birth or low birthweight.

Preposterous Ponderings said...

I kinda didn't mind the time change this go around. It got me an extra hour of S-E-X-!

Beach Bum said...

Tequila and MadMike: I agree the whole concept of daylight savings sucks. The idea of it as a energy saving method is stupid. We need to be developing a plan to get us off oil as much as possible.

C. Rag: Those infants in Intensive care really freaked me out. Babies so tiny that one could have fitted in my hand.

Mike: No matter what we did that night more than a few people, me included, will still be use to the old time. By the time I get use to daylight savings it will be close to the point when we change back over. The only reason I did the duty that night was for the overtime.

Lime: That is good news about pre-natal care giving a fighting chance to those infants that might not have made it.

Preposterous Ponderings: I had to just be happy with the overtime. Dragonwife had a headache, never get rid it actually.

Colonel Colonel said...

That's a pretty amazing story and well told.

Beach Bum said...

Colonel: Thanks, while it was sad to see the babies struggling Lime is right when she wrote that they would otherwise have no chance.

Keshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keshi said...

we just put an hour forward :)


**Was the number of infants in the intensive care wards normal or had we just walked in at a busy time?


Its the same here. I had an awful time going into ICU when I was visiting a friend's baby. There were far too many kids! One of the saddest things to witness is children suffering, in the ICU or not.


Keshi.

The Zombieslayer said...

I couldn't deal with that. I'd get sick. My mother though has an iron gut and worked in hospitals all her life, including one of the best cancer wards in the country.

As for daylight savings time, don't get me started.

Phoebe Fay said...

The scene you just described would be heaven to MP's nursing student daughter. The NICU is the place she was happiest so far in her clinicals, and she's looking hard for jobs and internships that'll keep her working with the babies. We were just talking last night about the difficulties, like airways so small that the slightest swelling can cut off oxygen. It's scary and wonderful all at the same time.

As for the time change, bah humbug. I hate it more and more every year.

Beach Bum said...

Keshi: My biggest concern is that with our horrible eating habits and obesity problem some of those little ones were in there because mom and dad were stupid.

Zombieslayer: Yeah, I've thanked God several times I have no pieces of equipment in the cancer wards. I've helped people though who do and to see the adults and kids in there tears my heart apart.

Phoebe Fay: My hat is off to MP's daughter. As I wrote its take a very special person to do that job. One of my reasons for wanting to get out of there was my fear that I might somehow interfere with the children or the staff taking care of them.

Melvin said...

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Melvin
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